This is my first time as a Science Olympiad participant, and my event is Sounds of Music, where I build an instrument. I decided on a homemade violin. We cut out the shape (trapezoids), sides, neck, and fingerboard already. The size of the trapezoids are height of 10 3/8" with bases 6 1/8" and 3 5/8". The width of the sides is 1 1/4".enter image description here As you can see the neck (~6 1/4" and we lopped off the scroll) and fingerboard (8") are relatively tiny.

The requirement for the competition is to play a one-octave scale in tune, so we are only going to put the D string on this violin.

I was wondering if there were any other technical issues we should take into account, because I know that the vibrations have to work in a certain way. Do we still need the soundpost on the inside of the violin? Because I think it was just for supporting the instrument. I also know that the bridge needs to be held down purely by the string because it needs to vibrate as well. What other parts should I specifically know about, such as the end blocks on the inside for the base of the neck and the tailpiece? Is it okay to put everything together with wood glue?

By the way, the materials are all maple plywood. I heard that plywood instruments have pretty bad sound quality and tone, but it's what I have access to.

And.. any ideas on how to build the bow?

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    Wow. That's a tough challenge you've tasked yourself! I would recommend to not try too much to approximate standard violin design, because that requires either lots of skill, practice and time (when done the traditional way) or else modern CNC machinery. Keep it as simple as possible. Is a hollow soundbox required? If not, better make it massive, that'll save an awful lot of work. No, it won't give much sound then, but as you say it likely won't sound good with plywood anyway. If you want it to be more musically useful and still got time, you can better fit a magnetic pickup in the end. – leftaroundabout Nov 10 '18 at 11:07
  • The soundpost isn’t structural, it’s there to improve the transfer of the side to side vibration if the string and bridge into up and down vibration in the top of the violin. – Dave Nov 10 '18 at 23:37
  • "play a one octave scale in tune" Equal Temperament or Just Intonation? – user45266 Nov 13 '18 at 0:33

Are you trying to imitate a violin? Or to build something that works like a violin? The basic requirements include sufficient structural strength for the string tension and enough resonance (largely from the cavity) to make it audible. Then there's the angle and distance between string and fingerboard, making it playable. And a tuning mechanism.

There's a long tradition of 'Cigar box fiddles' that might be useful inspiration.


  • Yes, I am trying to make a relatively functional violin. It should be in tune and have sufficiently variant dynamic range. There will be a tuning mechanism as well – I. Chen Nov 11 '18 at 1:54

Given that you are only expected to play a one octave scale in tune, I would say your biggest challenge is putting your fingers in the right place, not building the instrument. You could make a violin out of a plastic bucket that would do the job here too.

I would say to go ahead and glue your parts together. With one string, no need for corner blocks or soundpost. The only thing you have to be a little careful about is making sure the neck is glued securely to the body so it doesn't leave it.

Good luck. Let us know how it went.

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    Yes, I agree. I play the cello, not the violin, so I actually had to learn how to play a one octave scale on only one string. As for the gluing part, as I see it wood glue has a very strong bond so the secure-ness shouldn't be too much of a problem. Thank you, and I will update about how it goes – I. Chen Nov 11 '18 at 2:00

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